You're walking alone on the street at night, but then you hear another set of footsteps and a haunting tune being whistled by an unseen stranger. Fritz Lang used an similar premise in his 1930s German movie with Peter Lorre playing M, a psychopathic murderer of children. But the American radio series was even creepier. The unseen Whistler didn't kill anyone (that we know of), but he certainly loved watching murders take place, narrating them for us, and chuckling at the suffering of others instead of doing anything to stop it. Unlike M, he was never caught. He kept walking the streets every week for thirteen long years, whistling his ominous thirteen notes and telling us another tale of bizarre fate. Perhaps Fate is who the Whistler really was? He never provided any sir name, and the killer was usually punished by some twist of fate that only The Whistler seemed to expect.
It is very likely The Whistler was inspired by The Shadow, which began nearly a decade earlier. Like the Shadow, the Whistler seemed to enter and exit the criminal underworld without ever being seen. He would watch the evil doers carry out their schemes, yet they never saw him, even though he would tell us what they were thinking in their presence. His voice sounded equally sinister to The Shadow, too. It was was a slithering tenor, hissing the "s's" and often laughing "heh-heh-heh-hehheh!" at the foolishness of the guilty. Both series had similar opening lines: The Shadow "knew what evil lurked in the hearts of men", whereas The Whistler "knows many strange tales hidden in the hearts of men and women who have stepped into the shadows." When Bill Forman served 1/2 year in the military, Marvin Miller substituted as The Whistler.
Also like The Shadow, several different actors played the title role over the course of The Whistler series. Bill Forman played it the most, but his announcer (Marvin Miller) substituted for him during the six months of his army duty (Buxton, 256). Gale Gordon and Joseph Kearns voiced the Whistler in earlier days, while Everett Clarke played the character in 1947 and Bill Johnstone did in 1948 (Dunning, 719).
The last similarity was the saddest one. Both series ended about the time frame (in the mid 1950s). Crime increased in the following decades, maybe because the guilty felt they were no longer being watched and could get away with murder. Or could it be that the Whistler is saving up some more great stories to tell us about in the future?
It contains the most complete and accurate version of this series in the best sound possible at the time of creation. An updated version will be issued if more episodes or better sounding ones become available.
If you are interested in preserving Old Time Radio (OTR), you may wish to join the Old Time Radio Researchers Group at Yahoo.
Relax, listen, and enjoy!
OTRR Certified Accurate -- A series that is Certified Accurate indicates that all the episodes are properly identified and labeled but that the series does not contain all known extant episodes.
OTRR Certified Complete -- A series that is Certified Complete is the highest level of certification available under the OTRR Certified Standards. This certification level implies that all the files in the series are Certified Accurate but also indicates that the series is as complete as possible – it includes all extant episodes.
OTRR Non-Certified -- A collection of shows that has not gone through the OTRR Certification process.
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March 27, 2017 Subject:
Regarding those descriptive paragraphs above...
Whoever wrote the description of this series above must have been hitting the ganga when they listened to this series. If they ever did listen to it. Total goofball stuff.
Just so you know - this series has absolutely nothing to do with Fritz Lang's M. It's an ordinary radio thrill of its time, much like Escape or Inner Sanctum or Suspense. In this case, it's all crime stories, with no supernatural elements.
The Whistler is certainly NOT similar to The Shadow. In that series, the character of the Shadow takes part in the action - he's a crime fighter, like the early Batman - a man of mystery. On the other hand, the Whistler is simply a narrator - and not, as the Nimrod above claims, some kind of invisible character within the drama. AT a certain point in each story, the Whistler interrupts the action to comment for the listeners on what is happening. There is no mystery as to why the characters can't hear him - he's not one of them!
The series itself is worth a listen to see if you like it. It's not the best, but not a stinker either.
December 22, 2016 Subject:
Reply To Amanda2017
Hello, Amanda. I'd bet my second-last nickel that you're thinking of an Inner Sanctum episode entitled 'Skeleton Bay'. The script was done twice on that show, once on February 5, 1946, with the wonderful Betty Lou Gerson, then about four years later on January 30, 1950, with Charlotte Holland.
Funny that you should mention this episode, as it's one of my favourites, with one of my favourite radio actresses. I had one of the annoying blurbs that I write and upload to The Archive all written for this episode, and was planning to upload it in January.
P.S. When you're looking for a specific episode, but don't know the show, the OTR forum might be a better place; it might get more views.
P.P.S. Folks often put their year of birth after their name, to form their screen name. You're not from the future, are you? :)
December 22, 2016 Subject:
I love The Whistler. Quality program. However a year or so back I heard an episode about a woman mystery author who witnessed a murder on a beach and ends up helping hide the body and ultimately marries the criminal only to get carried away when she finds him with another woman. It's driving me crazy not remembering if this was a Whistler or Suspense or some other mystery show of the same period! Can anyone help me out?
February 12, 2016 Subject:
The vast majority of episodes are extremely well preserved, and listening to them fills me with a feeling of loss -- for we will never hear great drama like this anywhere but on Archive.org and not on broadcast radio, where it belongs.
January 10, 2014 Subject:
I'n reviewing merely to give this a 5 Star rating. The Whistler is superb & the copies from the OTRR are far better than the ones I originally acquired 10 years ago.
June 15, 2013 Subject:
The Kettledrum Sound Effect
The surprise endings of each Whistler tale were accented by a kettledrum sound effect. That was used to drive home the impact to the listener. If you listen to enough stories, you can tell when it is coming. However, on some stories, the sound effect came not right after the last line, but a few minutes late. If I was the director, I would have had the sound effects man do it over again. Of course, this was in the days before magnetic tape, and sometimes the acetate recording had to be scaped and the whole program had to be done over again.
November 24, 2012 Subject:
Love this series. Great work again by the OTRR. To the reviewer who said this was "ruined" and gave it one star. Have you looked at the single episode page where you can use the built in player (or a Flash version) to listen to the individual episodes? Instead of knocking this work with one star, do some searching first.
I was listening to The Whistler year-by-year one-by-one on my bookmarked page. Now, no years, so few episodes only 30 zip files with no references. You ruined a wonderful experience with your horrible changes.
June 10, 2012 Subject:
It would be extremely helpful to have a full listing of the contents of these. I have some 150 radio episodes and it would save a lot of hassle to know which discs I don't need to download, and what is on the discs with the videos.
April 26, 2012 Subject:
Some visitors have wondered where the radio show ends and the video files begin. The radio shows are on CDs 1-17, and the video files are in 18 to the end.
This was one of radio's greatest series, with some marvelous casts of the medium's best actors. It's finally together with well-researched dates and in nice quality sound.
April 20, 2012 Subject:
Fantastic!!! The TV shows are hard to come by and the movies are wonderful!!!
April 9, 2012 Subject:
Good Heavens - How Many?
30 cd's worth? You can about about 100 per cd.... an' there are 30 cd's here? WOW
Whatta collection! ! !
April 8, 2012 Subject:
One of the best
Thanks for collecting these in one place, with TV episodes to boot. Can't go wrong with the smart-alecky Whistler. I haven't heard a stinker yet.